a national information resource for value-added agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Organic Beef


Organic meat production is governed by USDA’s national organic standards implemented in 2002.  These standards state that animals must be raised using organic management practices and that organically-raised livestock must be separated from their conventional counterparts.   The use of growth-enhancing hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics is prohibited.  Cattle can receive preventive medical care (e.g., vaccines) and dietary vitamin and mineral supplements.  Cattle can only be fed 100% organically-produced feed that is free of animal by-products.  Furthermore, cattle must have access to the outdoors, shade, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight.  Organically-raised cows must have access to pasture.

In 2008, there were 2 million acres of organic certified rangeland and 63,680 organically-certified beef cows.  The price of natural/organic beef averaged $5.48 in the first quarter of 2011 which represented a premium of $1.70 per pound.  Such premiums are the result of consumer demand as well as the additional costs of producing organic beef.  April 2012 ...  Organic Beef




  • American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) - This association represents more than 1,800 small- and medium-sized meat, poultry and food businesses.
  • Labeling Guidance, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA - This site includes procedures, policies, a listing of ingredients, packaging materials and other related links.
  • North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) - This nonprofit trade association provides information and technical services to the meat-processing industry.
  • Packing House Byproducts, Iowa State University, 2003 - Large packing plants have found markets for the "last squeal" of the pig. How can smaller operations compete without the quantity of animals? This paper looks at small and medium-size beef and pork slaughterhouses and the alternatives for the major by-product categories.
  • U.S. Beef Packing Industry Profile, Iowa State University, 2003 - The beef sector of the U.S. agricultural economy is dominated by four major packers who control more than 83 percent of the federal slaughtering. A niche exists for smaller single plants that compete in market segments not occupied by major packers.


Businesses/Case Studies

  • Dakota Beef, Howard, South Dakota - This natural and organic beef operation stresses vertical coordination.
  • Half Circle Ranch, Belgrade, Montana - This ranch is certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA). Cattle are raised naturally--no growth stimulants, biological shots or other potentially harmful shots are administered. If a medical shot becomes necessary at any time during an animal's life, Half Circle Ranch will sell this animal at a local auction as commercial livestock and thereby remove it from the ranch.
  • Larsons Greenfarms, Brodhead, Wisconsin - This operation raises the majority of its own organic feedstuffs but also purchases organic feedstuffs from area producers.
  • Mesquite Organic Foods, Aurora, Colorado - This company provides certified, grass-fed organic beef.
  • Organic Valley Family of Farms, LaFarge, Wisconsin - This group of farms claims to be the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in the United States with 750 farm families in 25 states. It markets beef and other meats under its Valley's™ Organic Meats brand.
  • Prather Ranch, Macdoel, California - This ranch has been certified organic by Quality Assurance International. Cattle are raised without added hormones, antibiotics or animal-sourced proteins. The beef is processed in a private, USDA-inspected facility on the ranch.

Links checked February 2013.

Related Links

Organic Livestock and Poultry on Certified and Exempt Organic Farms: 2008, 2008 Organic Production Survey, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2010.

Organic Industry Trends


USDA Rural DevelopmentPartially Funded by USDA Rural Development
...and justice for all.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Many materials can be made available in alternative formats for ADA clients. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964.

Iowa State University

The names, words, symbols, and graphics representing Iowa State University are trademarks and copyrights of the university, protected by trademark and copyright laws of the U.S. and other countries.